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December 11, 2017

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is an outrageously fun time for action movie fans

(Giles Keyte/20th Century Fox)

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is in many ways a “safe” sequel. Unlike movies such as “The Godfather Part II,” “Aliens” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Kingsman” won’t defy your expectations and completely revitalize what made the movie it’s based on so good, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For lack of better words, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is fun, and the two hours and twenty-one minutes I sat watching the film flew by with non-stop action and hilariously entertaining moments.

A common trope in sequels, specifically those in the action-movie genre, is to simply make everything bigger, ignoring the fact that audiences typically demand a sequel because of an attachment or connection with the characters in the original. Matthew Vaughn, who returns to write and direct this movie, recognizes this, and instead of simply giving us more outlandish action, puts emphasis and time into the characters we love from the first film.

Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy, who is now an official gentleman/spy of Kingsmen, as well as his humble techie, Merlin, played expertly by Mark Strong. The most shocking return in this entire movie is that of Harry, played by Colin Firth, who was unceremoniously shot in the face by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Valentine, in the previous film.

All of these characters have their moments in the spotlight, the most notable character arc being Harry’s path to becoming a Kingsman again. After being shot in the head, Harry’s skills are not as sharp as they used to be, and watching Colin Firth play a suave and stoic spy constantly trying to hide his confusion and doubt provides some genuinely funny moments. The new characters, on the other hand, do not fare so well.

One of the movie’s most notable flaws is its need to introduce new characters, who it then fails to give the proper screen-time they deserve. For one, a whole new spy organization called Statesman is brought into the mix, but none of the characters—apart from a standout performance by Pedro Pascal, who plays Agent Whiskey—feel anywhere as well-realized as the Kingsmen agents, so why even have them in the movie at all?

Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges play Statesman agents and are billed as leads in the movie, yet they barely have enough collective screen time to be considered cameos. Also, Julianne Moore plays the 50s-loving villain, Poppy, and, although great in her performance, feels very detached from the rest of the plot and is easily forgotten about whenever she isn’t on screen.

Nevertheless, people don’t watch “Kingsman” for its complex characters and long-winded monologues filled with metaphors and flowery language. People watch it for the ridiculous, over-the-top, classic James-Bond-style action, and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” delivers beyond satisfying results.

There’s something undeniably euphoric about watching a cowboy spin dual-wielding revolvers on his index fingers, mowing down wave after wave of henchmen on a snowy mountainside in Italy, and that’s because Matthew Vaughn knows how to set up a universe where the impossible seems possible. With that, as well as the audience’s sympathy for its heroes, the action scenes manage to be engaging, fun and gripping, all at the same time.

Perhaps the only flaw within the action scenes themselves is that each is filmed with the same style as the iconic church fight scene in the original, meaning there is a lot of shaky cam, close-ups on characters and fast camera movement. The scenes are edited to give off the illusion that they were filmed in one take. This is not a major problem, but it would have been appreciated to see some diversity in the constructing of action scenes.

The ultimate question of this movie is does “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” need to exist? “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” which came out in 2014, was a surprise hit of that year, and banking on the same success could be risky.

My answer to the question is yes! Despite some flaws, “Kingsman” gives us more of the characters we love from the original while also doubling down on the action that director Matthew Vaughn is known for. In a time of unnecessary reboots and sequels that no one asks for, why not see one that does its predecessor justice while also feeling like a complete film on its own?

Matt Martella can be reached at mmartella@umass.edu.

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